Tehran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted Wednesday that Iran's economy would grow eight percent over the next 12 months despite severe Western sanctions, as he presented his government's annual budget to parliament.
Gross domestic product (GDP) would swell significantly, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency, without providing any details on what components of the economy would generate the growth.
That would continue a trend seen in recent years as Iran -- OPEC's second-biggest producer -- profits from historically high oil prices.
Ahmadinejad set out a USD 416 billion state budget for Iran's calendar and fiscal year, which runs this year from mid-March.
That was 14 percent less than for the 2011-2012 budget, which was set at USD 484 billion.
The president did not quantify the size of the economy.
But the International Monetary Fund estimates that 2011 GDP (from January to December) was USD 480 billion at the official exchange rate, around 2.5 percent higher than the previous year.
Ahmadinejad did not refer to the government's estimated price for oil, which accounts for more than half of budget revenues.
The last budget calculated oil revenues at USD 82 per barrel. Iran gets 80 percent of its foreign revenues from oil exports.
Nor did Ahmadinejad mention the exchange rate the government was counting on for the Iranian rial against the dollar.
The rial has slipped sharply against the dollar in the past three months, losing around half its value as Western sanctions have piled up.
State television, however, reported that the exchange rate would be calculated at 11,500 rials to the dollar.
That was stronger than the new official rate of 12,260 rials announced last week -- and far stronger than the 18,500 rate the dollar is fetching on the black market.
Iran's economy has been grappling with ratcheted up sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union in an effort to pressure Tehran to drop nuclear activities suspected to include research for an atomic bomb.
US President Barack Obama said last month the sanctions had reduced Iran's economy to a "shambles."
Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is peaceful, has reacted angrily as the West has sought to isolate it by curtailing its oil exports and operations by its central bank.
First Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 19:42